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Cohen says Trump directed him to make hush money payments to women

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen speaks out after sentencing
Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen speaks out after sentencing -
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Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen said on Friday that the president directed him to make hush money payments to women who claimed they had affairs with the billionaire.

“I will not be the villain of his story,” Cohen said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Trump's ex-attorney said he knew what he was doing was wrong and refuted Trump's claim that he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law".

"I don't think there is anybody that believes that. First of all, nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Mr Trump," Cohen said.

"He directed me, as I said in my allocation, and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters."

Cohen admitted in the interview that he lied for a long time — "more than 10 years" — and that he's done being loyal to Trump.

"I followed a bad path and hence how we started this conversation. I have my freedom, and I will not be the villain — as I told you once before — I will not be the villain of his story," he said.

Cohen added that "of course" Trump knew it was wrong to make the payments to the women.

This was the first time Cohen has spoken publicly since he was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty in Manhattan federal court to nine federal charges.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that "time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump's] dirty deeds."

Trump on Thursday tweeted after the sentencing that Cohen's conviction is a plot to "embarrass" him."I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law," Trump said on Twitter. "He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.

It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid."The hush money payments included $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. Trump has denied both affairs.

Asked if he had any advice for his old boss, Cohen said:

"Lay off Twitter, run the country the way that we all thought that you would, be able to take the Democrats, Republicans, bring them together and bring the country together instead of dividing the country," Cohen said.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women.

National Enquirer's parent company, AMI, admitted to federal prosecutors in a non-prosecution deal on Wednesday that it made a $150,000 payment to McDougal "in concert with the campaign" to "catch and kill" her story about the alleged affair.